An upgradable, customizable laptop from San Francisco startup Framework could be exactly what the tech industry needs to make sustainability a priority.
PCs have long been viewed as the only truly customizable consumer tech on the market today. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones are all in consistent rotation, and few DIY options exist, if any.
The Framework Laptop could change that though, by providing a customizable and sustainable option for users around the world.
The Framework Laptop
Announced in a blog post on the company website, the Framework Laptop is “a thin, lightweight, high-performance 13.5-inch notebook that can be upgraded, customized, and repaired in ways that no other notebook can.” According to the company, the Framework Laptop will be available sometime this summer, with preorders opening sometime in the spring. Here are a few specs from the upcoming device:
- 2256×1504 resolution
- 1080p 60fps webcam
- 55Wh battery
- 11th Gen Intel Core Processor
- up to 64GB of RAM
- 4TB or more storage
In addition to all these surprisingly stellar specs, the Framework Laptop will be almost entirely customizable and upgradable, with a wide range of available ports, storage, WiFi, and main board, which can be swapped out as the user sees fit. Even high-use parts like the battery, screen, keyboard, and bezel are easily replaceable, so you can truly enjoy the laptop you want, when you want it.
Framework has committed to releasing new components for the laptop over time, so that users can update the device rather than swap it out for a new one, saving money and parts from going to waste. Additionally, the startup plans to “enable a community of partners to build and sell compatible modules through the Framework Marketplace,” which will hopefully solve a problem that other customizable laptop producers have run into.
Will people buy it?
History says, probably not. Framework is certainly not the first company to attempt something like this, and previous iterations have been far from well-received. Intel, Alienware, and even Google have tried their hand at customizable devices with virtually nothing to show for it.
However, this laptop is different, according to its founder Nirav Patel, because of one important factor: Framework is all-in on this concept.
“Other companies, they put it out there, and someone internally decided, ‘Eh, we’re going to focus on something else this year,’ and shut down the project,” said Patel. “This is not something we’re dabbling in. It’s not a side project for us that someone thought was interesting. This is the core of our company.”
Having a heightened stake in the game is certainly a good way to make sure Framework is working around the clock to make this new laptop work for them. Still, while PCs have done great when it comes to customizability, the market for the same in the laptop sector hasn't been proven. And if Framework is fully and exclusively banking on customizability as its main selling point, it could have some trouble.
On the other hand, the company has framed the project as a sustainable alternative to the consumer tech industry's usual suspects — a topic that certainly has plenty of support — and that could be the edge it needs to actually make an impact.
The Sustainability of Customizable Devices
Customizable devices aren't just a convenient way to get a laptop, desktop, or smartphone with the exact specs you want. The reality is that this kind of technology is a good way to combat the significant tech waste problem that has arisen in the modern era. Unfortunately, that's just not how the consumer tech industry functions in 2021.
“As a consumer electronics company, your business model effectively depends on churning out constant tons of hardware and pushing it into channels, and into market, and into consumers’ hands, and then sort of dropping it and letting it exist out there,” said Patel. “It encourages waste and inefficiency, and ultimately environmental damage.”
This is hard to argue with. From AirPods that are unrepairable by design to the revolving door of yearly smartphone designs, the consumer tech industry is far from concerned with the environment. Even in the face of serious material shortages around the world, these companies not only ignore but encourage the needless consumption of new products because, hey, it's good for the bottom line.
Fortunately, Framework is aimed at making a change.
“We believe the time has come for consumer electronics products that are designed to last.”
Whether the Framework Laptop can make an impact — or if another company can figure out the customizable model — remains to be seen. But if we want to keep enjoying high quality technology into the future, we need to figure out a way to manage all this waste. And hopefully, this is it.
Check out the best laptops for 2021 for more information